What to Expect at Physical Therapy

Here are the most common questions we receive. If your question isn’t answered here, please call or contact us via the webform or give us a call. This way, we can address your concern as well as improve our own FAQ.

Some commonly asked questions about physical therapy:

Will my insurance pay for physical therapy?

Yes. 99% of the time they do. In fact, we will verify your benefits for you. We even contract with the local Arizona AHCCCS plans. When you walk in for your first visit, your benefits will be explained to you thoroughly. This service is complimentary to you, and the purpose is that there will be no mystery surrounding your benefits. If you have a specific question about your plan please first consult our insurance list and second, give us a call if you are still wondering!

Does physical therapy hurt?

If we are asking you to do something that is hurting, let us know! Physical therapy should not be painful. It is not common to be so sore that patients are in pain or it affects their daily life. If this ever happens during or after an appointment, let us know and we will back off the intensity. There are those who say, “no pain no gain” … but we prefer the phrase “no pain is no pain!”

How long does physical therapy treatment take?

A typical order for physical therapy will ask for 2-3 visits per week for 4-6 weeks. Sometimes the order will specify something different. What generally happens is for the first 2-3 weeks, we recommend 3x per week. This is because it will be the most intensive portion of your treatment. After that, it is common to back off to 2x weekly, based on your level of function and progress.

How long does a physical therapy appointment last?

We recommend budgeting 40-60 minutes for a typical therapy session. The only exception to this will be your first visit, which can take about 20 minutes longer due to the physical therapy evaluation your therapist will provide. We also recommend showing up about 10-15 minutes early to your first visit. This way, you can complete the paperwork before your visit time and streamline the process.

What happens at physical therapy sessions?

As mentioned above, a physical therapy visit lasts about 40-60 minutes. The actual contents of the visit vary based on your diagnosis/need, but typically what happens is
1. You check in with the receptionist, make any appointments necessary, and we discuss your health insurance benefits with you.
2. You go into the gym. You can change clothes if you need to, then begin therapy. This can start with a few minutes on a hot/cold pack, or a few minutes of gentle electrical stimulation, to strengthen muscles and promote blood flow.
3. You perform 6-8 various exercises and stretches. These can include therapeutic band exercises, light body weight exercises, or minimal weights. The stretches will promote strength, stability, improved range of motion, and pain relief.
4. The therapist will massage areas still tight or causing pain. This can take a few minutes.
5. The therapist makes recommendations based on your progress. These can include altering the frequency of visits, making additions/alterations to your home exercise plan, or things to do before your next visit.

What questions do physical therapists ask patients?

During your initial evaluation, your therapist may ask you a number of questions to determine what is the cause of your pain. This can include questions about your sleep habits, activity level, and work environment. They will also ask for a medical history, and then typically ask direct questions about where and when you experience pain.

What if I get sore from my exercises?

It is common for patients to experience some muscle soreness in the first few weeks of physical therapy. The reason for this is that you are exercising and stretching a part of your body that isn’t used to the activity. When we recommend an exercise or stretch, we are specifically targeting the muscles, tendons/ligaments, and bone structures that are dysfunctional and causing you pain. Don’t worry, if your pain level increases through treatment, we are very good at responding to your feedback in real-time to modulate the intensity of the sessions and get you feeling comfortable again.

Is it important to keep my appointments?

Yes. To benefit from physical therapy, consistency in keeping appointments is very important. Physical therapy works based on the science of how the body rebuilds and heals. The biggest killer of progress is inconsistency. If your doctor recommended 2-3x weekly, we recommend sticking to that.

Will I lose my progress if I miss an appointment or don’t complete my home exercise program?

Not necessarily. If you miss an appointment or forget to do your HEP, it is important that you make that up. Most of the time, when a patient reports no progress, it turns out they struggled to commit to the process throughout their treatment. On the flipside, when our patients are consistent, they achieve positive results quickly.

What is a physical therapy HEP?

HEP stands for home exercise program, and it’s a vital part of any treatment plan. It’s one of the most important aspects of physical therapy. If you started anything new in life: a workout, a new job, a new hobby, etc, you would benefit immensely from doing it every day as opposed to a couple times per week. Generally, you will be provided with a specific HEP protocol by the therapist near the end of your first visit. It will usually take 10-15 minutes of your time at home to engage in a few stretches/exercises that will compliment the progress you make in our office. Don’t worry, they generally require little to no equipment, and equipment will be provided to you if you need it (such as an exercise band).

What should I wear to physical therapy?

You should wear loose clothes that make it easy to move. We also recommend sneakers. Workout clothes will work, but any comfortable clothing will work fine. While this is not a ‘gym workout’ – you will be exercising the affected area. The less your clothes restrict your movement and the more comfortable you are, the better. Shorts, yoga pants, or athletic/loose fitting pants and a tee shirt are all good options.

What are our credentials?

Our therapists are fully licensed physical or occupational therapists. If you are wondering about the specific staff in your clinic, please visit the location page for your area and read the bios. We also employ several physical therapist assistants (PTA’s), at our locations. These professionals are also licensed and highly qualified to assist you in your treatment.

Do you communicate with my doctor?

Yes, we regularly communicate with your doctor. This includes initial evaluations, monthly progress notes, and discharge plans.
1. To ensure that the treatment you receive is consistent with what your doctor is recommending.
2. To maintain a continuity of care between the professionals who are helping you.

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